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Slow progress for creative sector

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TRINTA—There will be creation of markets for products

The year 2021 is gone and welcome 2022. When the year 2021 was starting, there were so many prospects from the creative sector as players looked ahead to progression in various areas including infrastructure.

With artists seeking platforms to showcase their talents, there was little that happened in terms of infrastructure development in the year 2021.

In Blantyre, for instance, the once entertainment mecca – Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC), formerly French Cultural Centre, which the government bought from the French government in 2011—is still in a sorry state.

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BCC has over the years hosted several events as well as renowned artists before it was ransacked by thieves.

The venue, which is vital in that it has over the years accommodated activities of different artistic disciplines, is yet to get back to its proper shape, with the government’s rehabilitation works moving at a slow pace.

Promises have been made but nothing fruitful has come out with in terms of putting BCC to its proper form.

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Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi in 2021 made surprise visits to BCC and Chichiri Museum.

Following his visit last year, the minister was left disappointed after he found that the contractor was not there.

The brick wall fence, which would have progressed by now, is still way down and this did not go down well with the minister before he engaged some of the officials looking after BCC.

Usi also expressed disappointment with the state of the amphitheatre, which is yet to be rehabilitated.

The minister also toured Chichiri Museum, where he appreciated some of its services.

“I just thought I should check these places since I was in Blantyre. I am disappointed with what I have seen at BCC. We could have been at an advanced stage by now. Artists need to use this place but there seems to be no progress. Our mindsets need to change for sure,” Usi said told The Daily Times.

He indicated then that he would make necessary moves and engage players to make sure that there is progress with BCC and that the amphitheatre should be functional.

But despite that, BCC remains in a sorry state and it is high time the government looked into this issue for the betterment of the creative industry.

“It is not only BCC but the government would have put up proper recreation centres in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Zomba if we are to expose talents. Yes we have other private venues but the government also needs to play its part in this,” a visual artist, who did not want to be named, said.

The artist further said that visual artists have been lobbying for a National Art Gallery but there has been no progress.

“A National Art Gallery is very crucial because it would help people access artworks easily. Of course, we have other galleries but we need a National Art Gallery as is the case in other countries. The same applies to our museums and other historical places,” he said.

Usi, during a visit to Chichiri Museum, appreciated some of the historical artifacts which he noted need new breath.

“The museum is rich in artifacts but there are some of them that need new breath. We need to revamp the museum so that it starts attracting people. There is so much that we can do and we need to work hand in hand,” Usi said.

The year 2021 also saw creatives making headway in terms of lobbying for the establishment of the National Arts and Heritage Council (Nahec) which is long overdue.

Nahec could have been on the ground by now following the approval of the Culture Policy in 2015.

Musician Eric Trinta alongside other creatives was on top of the bill lobbying for the tabling of the Nahec Bill which, if enacted by Parliament, would lead to the establishment of NaHec.

The team petitioned Parliament with legislators Billy Kaunda, who is also a musician, and Mike Bango, receiving the petition on behalf of the august house.

Kaunda said after receiving the petition that it would go through all the processes needed – to the Clerk of Parliament up to the Speaker and then Business Committee.

“We will see the way forward to bring it to Parliament and table it during next meeting probably in February (next month),” he said.

Trinta, who is owner of Nyamithambo Arts Palace and an accountant, said they were happy that they have started the process of taking their issues to relevant authorities for action and will continue to fight this year.

He said that Malawi is the only country in Southern African Development Community (Sadc) without Arts Council and that the creative industry is heavily exposed, hence failing to compete favourably internationally.

“A lot of the population in the creative industry is currently jobless as the sector is not guided economically via right legislation like Nahec,” he said.

Trinta also said that it was wrong for the country to have poor celebrities, who have no home in the budget, and that they always beg when in need.

“This does not happen with other careers. If this generation does not set the things right now then new vision 2063 will be useless as we are leaving a very huge population behind,” he said.

Further shedding more light on the important of Nahec, Trinta said the moment arts associations are nationalised and get budget allocations, each category would polish its products of its members for wealth creation and that value addition will come in.

“There will be creation of markets for products and this will be throughout Malawi,” he said.

Trinta also said that artists will be covered accordingly in pensions and health insurance as Nahec will be the central point.

“Cultural events will be nationalised and cultural villages and museums will be better managed by communities for tourism in their respected areas. Label companies will start investing in Malawi and export talents and bring in forex. Currently we are importing artists, which is not healthy. There are a lot of benefits accrued to this bill,” he said.

Trinta said as Malawians, we do not see this hidden talent “because we feel copying from other countries is the best but we have a very big story to tell the world.”

In 2021, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife in partnership with Unesco also held regional consultations for arts and culture sector on implementation of Culture Policy.

Trinta and team have since formed a Nahec taskforce which is being headed by National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) President Maxwell Chiphinga, popularly known as Max DC.

“Following the petition which was presented to Parliament, we want to follow up and the taskforce will look into all this. We understand the bill is at the Ministry of Justice but we want it tabled during the next meeting of Parliament so that we can fasten the process and have NaHec established. The Culture Policy that paved the way for Nahec bill was approved in 2015 and so it is sad that things have moved at such a slow pace,” Chiphinga said.

Chiphinga also said they would try to look into other issues which failed to materialise in 2021.

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